SAUGUS — The Kasabuski Rink, which is currently without ice, is expected to be back in operation in about four weeks.
The rink was supposed to open for the season on Sept. 15, according to the terms of the lease, but did not because the rink bed failed and could not freeze the ice.
Attorney Neil Rossman, who represents Dan Maniff, who leases and operates the arena, said the rink shuts down each year in April, leaving the spring and summer months for maintenance, refurbishing, and repairs.
“When they went to open the rink this year in September, they found out that the refrigeration system that runs under the rink that freezes the ice had failed,” said Rossman. “They had to bring people in to see if it could be repaired. The consensus was that it could not be repaired and that there were two ways of dealing with it. (They could) demo the whole rink bed and put in a whole new concrete floor with refrigeration pipes through the concrete floor, which would mean it wouldn’t be open for the season because it would take months and months. They found a different solution, called a mat solution.The mat sits on top of the damaged, unusable flooring and it is able to be refrigerated. It provides an immediate solution.”
But selectman Jeff Cicolini said he believes the solution is only a temporary fix to buy time.
“I consider it to be a short term fix,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s just going to be a bandaid. It’s not a long-term fix. It will allow our children and adults to utilize the rink and get it operational hopefully within the next four weeks, but long-term, we need to look for a solution that can fix this problem and make sure that additional repairs are completed.”
Selectwoman Jenn D’Eon called it a disappointing situation.
“I’ve had parents call me recently saying that Saugus Youth Hockey has started and they can’t practice,” she said.
The Board of Selectmen leased the state-owned rink to Maniff in 2008.
For the first three years of the 20-year lease, the town was held responsible for trash pickup, water, and insurance costs, said selectman Scott Brazis.
“It’s the Board of Selectmen that are the signatures on the lease, not the Town Manager, and it basically makes the town responsible for capital maintenance of the rink and the building, including structural issues,” said chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen Debra Panetta. “However, the town did rent out the space and those capital improvements were supposed to be completed by the operator. That’s where the problem begins.”
Brazis, who was president of Saugus Youth Hockey when the town took Maniff to court for not keeping up with the property, said he fears the solution is short term and might last until the end of the lease, but not much longer.
“Then the town has to take it back and we are responsible for capital improvements to that rink,” he said. “Boards and glass were supposed to be in there three years ago. It’s gone on deaf ears.”
But the state has approved it as a permanent solution that could last up to three decades, said Rossman. The mat solution is used when NFL teams play outdoor games, such as at Fenway Park. The cost is about $200,000, compared to the alternative, which would have been twice as expensive, said Rossman.
“Yes, it was less expensive to put the mat down than to demo the floor, pour concrete and run permanent piping, but that wasn’t the consideration,” said Rossman. “The consideration was the time factor. If they had done it the first way, it would have been more expensive and it would have been closed for the whole year. This saves the whole skating season.”